Our features lately have been heavy on video, but that's because there was a lot of video content to cover! That side of things has slowed a bit, so I had a chance to do another written feature! Hopefully it's a topic you enjoy. As always, thanks for reading.
Gyroscopic aiming in games is nothing new, as the feature has been around for years now. A number of games, usually on the Nintendo side of things, implement the unique control feature for first and third person titles. While the control scheme itself years old, there still haven't been too many titles to implement the feature since its inception. Thankfully the Switch seems to be changing that, and numerous devs are recognizing that gyroscopic aiming should at least be included as an option.
To be clear up front, I don't think gyroscopic aiming should be the default option for players, nor do I believe it should be the only one. Almost the same thing can be said for traditional dual-stick controls. Any first or third person shooter should allow multiple control schemes for players. That said, I don't think anyone would argue that standard dual stick aiming/walking shouldn't be the default, as that's the most widely accepted method of controls. It's just equally important for devs to embrace other options, and make sure they're properly implemented.
Back in the day when first person games started using dual stick controls, I thought my gaming days were over. I had no idea how I could handle using two analog sticks at once just to walk and look. It felt like patting my head and rubbing my stomach at the same time. Weeks and weeks of trying to move from what GoldenEye offered to this two dual-stick setup was killer. I just couldn't make it work for me, and I became so worried when I saw that most FPS titles were heading in that direction.
Instead of giving up, I kept plugging away at things. I was determined to overcome my struggles and make this control scheme work for me. I won't say there was a moment where everything clicked and I wasn't having issues, but over time, I started to adapt. I did eventually become proficient with those controls, and then hit a point where I couldn't imagine playing an FPS without them. Thinking of having some sort of other control scheme for FPS/third person titles nowadays is pretty much unfathomable!
Most first and third-person games since those early days have stuck to the same control scheme. It's certainly not broken, so why bother changing it up? Devs do include options to tweak specific elements like how analog sticks handle turning or what buttons do what, but by and large, things have remained unchanged. The dual-stick control scheme is proven to be the preferred method for those type of titles, and I definitely agree with that. That said, I don't think that means there's not room for improvement, which is where gyroscopic aiming comes in.
My first real experience with going all-in on gyroscopic aiming was the original Splatoon on Wii U. Again, there were other games that had some gyroscopic features, but for me, Splatoon was the game that really wanted to show how those controls could not just compliment traditional dual-stick controls, but take them to a new level as well. Even with Nintendo showing off gyroscopic controls leading into launch, I wasn't sure they'd be for me. The control scheme we'd had for years worked fine. Why would I want to throw something else into the mix?
When I first got hands on Splatoon, I decided to give gyroscopic controls a try. Within minutes, I was looking all over the place and getting absolutely lost. Everything I could normally do in games with ease was now absolutely unwieldy. It was like I had never played a dual-stick game before. I felt like someone was yanking the controller away from me, causing the camera to fly all over the place. These moments took me right back to how I felt when the first dual-stick games came out.
I could have given up on gyroscopic aiming right there and used the traditional controls. It's not like Splatoon forced you to use gyroscopic aiming, and other titles weren't going to have the feature either. That said, I started to think about really committing to them. Nintendo felt there was a valid reason to not only include them, but showcase them during gameplay videos. Sure, Nintendo wanted to sell the Wii U and its unique features, but I felt there was more than that. I decided to stick with gryoscopic aiming and see what I could do with it.
Again, just like what happened with me for dual-stick controls, I slowly started to adapt. The more I played, the more I got a handle on gyroscopic aiming. I started to see why Nintendo was so dead-set on showcasing this feature. I also began to understand why other players were singing the praises of gyroscopic aiming. Even the pros that eventually emerged in the Splatoon competitive scene were using gyro aiming. If you ever needed another bit of proof that gyro aiming was worth giving a shot, there it was.
That time with Splatoon cemented gyro aiming in my mind. While I was unsure at the start, I eventually found it to be the go-to way for me to aim. The moment everything came together happened when I realized the disconnect in my mind with gyro aiming. I was originally having trouble because I was using grand, sweeping motions with the controller. That was throwing everything out of whack and making it impossible to control. Gyroscopic aiming is all about fine-tuning what you're doing with the traditional analog sticks. A little nudge in certain directions from your hand, married with joystick movements, makes for the ultimate pair.
I can't express how much easier I find it to fine-tune a shot with gyro aiming versus traditional controls. Back when I would just use two joysticks to aim, I could certainly get the job done. That said, when it came down to lining up shots, the finer adjustments were much tougher for me to do with two joysticks. You'd have to be ridiculously precise with your joystick taps to get that shot where you wanted it. For me, gyro aiming completely takes that away. I can line up where an enemy is in general with a joystick, and then use simple hand movements to lock in my shot exactly where I want it. That natural movement of my hands to line up a shot feels so much better to me. There really is no comparison.
Since both the Joy-Con and Switch Pro Controller allow for motion controls on Switch, developers have had good reason to include gyro aiming schemes for their games. It also helps that the Switch has been quite a huge hit, so developers are more willing to go the extra mile with features like this. There have definitely been more first and third person titles that allow for gyro aiming throughout the Switch's lifespan, and its made those games so much more enjoyable for me. There's really nothing else in gaming for me that feels as good as aiming with gyro controls, and now I get to use them more than ever.
The most recent example for me comes from Rogue Company, which I've been spending a lot of time with. The gang at Hi-Rez deserve an absolute ton of praise for their dedication to implementing gyro aiming. Not only did they include the feature right from the get-go, but they also provide a ton of options for players to adjust. Sensitivity for aiming, inverse options, and more are there for you to dig through. This has resulted in one of the best-implemented gyro aiming schemes on the Switch yet, outside of what Nintendo themselves do.
Playing Rogue Company with gyro controls feels absolutely fantastic, and really gets me more into the action. There's something about those controls that just deepen my fun with a game, and the feeling I get from it. There's something so satisfying to me about lining up a shot with just a few small movements of my hands. I really can't get enough of it!
I'm at the point where first/third person games that don't include gyro aiming feel wrong to me. I've played quite a bit of Call of Duty: Warzone, and no matter how long I play, I can't stop wishing that there were gyro controls. It's not just something I think about, but something I physically do as well. When I'm playing that game, I can't stop from moving my hands as I would in a game with gyro aiming. That kind of control has just become second nature by now, and I feel like I'm at a real deficit when that scheme is not included. I can't tell you how many losses I've suffered and shots I've missed in that game because of my gyro aiming muscle memory!
Going forward, I hope more companies start to realize the benefits of gyro aiming. Things have gotten a lot better in recent years, but there's always more work to do. Devs have figured out how to really utilize the feature, but now it's up to players to show off just how much your skills can benefit from them. The more we use them and sing their praises, the more developers will focus on them and make sure they're not only included, but implemented correctly.
I hope that one day we won't have to ask about gyro aiming anymore. When a game is announced for Switch nowadays, players flood the devs with questions about whether or not gyro aiming is supported. In the not-too-distant future, let's hope gyro aiming as an option is a given.